An Ode to Those Turning 27 This Year

This year, most of my peers are turning 27.

A quick Google search tells you that 27th birthday is a desolate place:

Someone sounds freaked out.

Someone sounds freaked out.

You probably have seen a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother series, which started around our junior year in college.  At the season premier of this show, Ted Mosby starts off at the age of 27.  Like some of us today, Ted at 27 has started feeling anxious to meet his soulmate even though he clearly is not ready to settle down in any way as we later witness in subsequent seasons.  Ted perhaps feels this way especially after his best friend Marshall gets engaged in the very first episode.

Now we are all Ted Mosby-s!  We are 27!

Because I want to know how I am faring in life and what my peers are doing, I looked up some statistics about this unique age although technically, every age is unique in one’s lifetime.

  • Fun fact numero uno.  The official median age of Myanmar, according to its most recent census, is 27.
  • The last time we had a population census, back in 1973, most Myanmar women were already married by 27.  To be exact, about 78% of women my age were married four decades ago!
  • In the United States, 27 happens to be the age an average American woman gets married.
  • If you are a health conscious 27-year-old who is getting hitched this year, you are likely to stay with this partner for another four dozen years, assuming you stay well into your seventies with copious help from salt caves, kombucha tea and quinoa.  That is an awful lot of time to be spending with a complete stranger.  Think about that!
  • Umm…I guess you are probably wishing you are not reading this, but science definitely says that the quality of female eggs measurably declines from age 27 onwards.  Perhaps this explains the earlier cries for help found on Google search engine about turning 27.  But this is the truth: the female fertility peaks at 27.  Our eggs will never be better, prettier, or healthier than they are right at this very moment.
  • According to National Center for Health Statistics (United States), women between 20-59 years of age have had four sexual partners (seven for men, but I think they exaggerate).  I have a lot of opinions about this survey, since the selected age range is too wide for the result to be meaningful at all.  In any case, there is no way to know statistically how many sexual partners Myanmar peers have, especially now that there is this uber conservative law banning sex outside of the confines of marriage, but honestly, how do you think you are faring in this area? Wink, wink.
  • The Atlantic did an article on Today’s 27-Year-Olds, reporting mostly facts which surprise nobody.  About half of 27-year-old Americans are indebted.  College dropouts are more likely to be unemployed.  Likely to be living with parents than roommates. Et cetra.  If you have a job right now, be thankful.
  • However, the same Atlantic article surprised me with the following reports.  Only a third of us have a Bachelor’s degree.  Among all 27-year-old with debts (not confined to student loans), about 55% have debt more than $10,000.  Only fewer than half of us are single.  The majority of Bachelor’s degree holders still report being single (that only means they are not co-habitating or married, but maybe in relationships).  That means that if you are in-between relationships right now or have a Bachelor’s degree without debt, you are “special.”  Add being Myanmar to this equation, and you are probably double, triple or data-unavailable special because (1) most Myanmar youths seem to marry earlier than their American peers reported in the Atlantic article, and (2) there are also fewer university graduates given the average Myanmar person finishes only up to fourth grade.
  • Divorce rates have always been lower for Myanmar women in the past, but I have a feeling that my generation is going to change this.  In the U.S., the often quoted number of divorce rates is 50%.  Conventional interpretation is that half of marriages fail, which is actually not all true.  Most divorce stats get dragged down by those who marry too early.  The stabilizing factor sets in at the age 23-25, while marrying late does not guarantee a more successful marriage either.  At a personal level, I take this to mean that dating decisions this year should not be taken lightly.  Time to get out of relationship ruts before Valentine!  Before you go and book  that table for two at La Carovana!  Do it.
  • Hopefully, we are doing better in life at 27 than people on this site, or at least having as much fun as them!
  • If you are a very, very talented 27-year-old musician and happen to die this year, you will officially be conducted into the Club 27.  Unfortunately, there are not very many perks to this club membership.
  • Random fact: Jon Hamm was dropped by his agency at 27 and could not find any work.  Jon Hamm, of all people!  At 27.
  • Finally, I am going to again mention Dr. Meg Jay’s Thirty is not the New Twenty.  Her book The Defining Decade should be a pre-requisite life reading for any recent graduate!  According to this school of thought, turning 27 = having three more years of focusing on things we want to work on about ourselves.  If we want to change anything about ourselves in life, work or love, the time is NOW.

Hello, 2016.  Happy New Year, y’all!  Wishing you all the best from Italy.  This post has been pre-scheduled.

Behind the Brand @ Cici

Hillary: The woman behind Cici clothing line

Lately, I have had to initiate difficult conversations at work. As I cruise through my mid-twenties, I have also begun measuring professional success and satisfaction through a different set of yardsticks. When I shared this with one of my best friends, she emailed me this article in the morning and told me that it is better to start valuing yourself and letting others know to value you while you are still young. It is a life skill.

Overall, with the opening up of Myanmar, I would say that it is actually a very fortunate time to be a single, twenty-something professional woman in Yangon, especially as a repatriate. We really cannot complain. I feel grateful for all the opportunities, timing, and generous help from trusted advisers, mentors and supervisors at work and outside of office.

While things are fairly comfortable for repatriates and large companies with access to capital, it is also worth reflecting that most of Myanmar’s youth is faced with massive insecurity over job readiness, English skills and other training opportunities, the same way most of mom and pop stores struggle with the trade opening of the country. What matters more is employment for the critical mass, as someone wise said at Euromoney a few months ago.

Amidst all of this, I must say I am very impressed with Hillary, the mastermind behind the new clothing line Cici, aimed at dressing young, modern professional women of Myanmar. As a fresh graduate of Swarthmore College and a family with roots in retail and garment industry, Hillary has appropriately taken up her role as a bold business entrepreneur, handling the media, staff and guests expertly and with so much grace. I just love how much the brand is in sync with the woman behind it.

For her first collection, she invited real young professional women instead of models to walk her debut show, which was a real fun experience! The young savvy designers behind the line also made an offer to some of us to give them English lessons in exchange for cute clothing. Deal!

Day -5

Day -5

Project Cici

Day -5

-2 Hours: Hillary graciously handles media

-2 Hours: Hillary and media interviews

-1 hour: remove the consequences of heavy handling by makeup artists...

-1 hour: Removing the heavy handling of makeup artists…

Zero hour

Zero hour



Professional Crushes: Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy

It’s official and public: I am leaving my current job.

People usually respond: “But May… Why?” Don’t get me wrong. I still think Proximity Designs is definitely the best nonprofit/social organization in the country. Probably all of South East Asia. And in all of this galaxy. But something called instinct tells me it’s time for me to diversify my skill sets and therefore move, which is what I am doing … but to where exactly?

There are a couple of bizarre ideas.  And my mentors cannot have been more helpful. They take me out to lunches, prescribe me with relevant books, and give me all kinds of professional advice. Thank you. Sometimes even if someone is not my mentor, I make her one anyway, like this, across the cyberspace. Like a book you accidentally pick up at a library and cannot put it down, sometimes you read about someone and just know she/he must be a real star in person. And I crave for that kind of inspiration when my reach and access is still so limited here in Yangon.

It’s a slow morning at work. I just submitted a proposal. Legitimate reason for a quick indulgence on the Dining section on New York Times, right? That’s where I discovered Dirt Candy and the wonderful blog that the chef and owner Amanda Cohen writes. Why didn’t I see this when I was actually in New York City all of last year? Oh well.

Even though Pete Wells gave her only two stars in his review, he pointed out that most vegetarian restaurants look toward either the health food trend or ethnic cuisines, but Cohen is inventing a vegetarian cuisine that is her own. Her restaurant concept appears to have come straight from her (web) personality: straight-talk, pure energy bomb and her comic sense of humor (that even Pete Wells took notice of … probably because he was termed a Dinner Ninja).

A lot of restaurants these days tend to green-wash themselves with the term “farm-to-table” thrown around a little too quickly and loosely. But Amanda Cohen is straightforward. She says, “Part of our package isn’t about how green we are, because my philosophy is that you shouldn’t have to talk about it, you just should be.” BAM.

She also won a Sustainability Award and even though her restaurant has LED lighting and uses eco-friendly pest services and cleaning products, she doesn’t brand it as such. She uses organic and local produce whenever she can but is also comfortable using lemons, which do not grow in New York State.

Her food is green and vegetarian but she asks the eater to simply have fun once you step into her territory. No attitude, no food talk, no sass. She has stated that she doesn’t care about your health or your politics. Just eat her signature mushrooms, have a stellar time and leave! It’s only an 18-seat restaurant after all. Her menu famously has exclamation points. Even the place is named “Dirt Candy.” She just recently published a graphic novel cookbook too. I find myself comparing her with Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and I must say that the book colored my experience at Prune, which is a lot darker than what I imagine Dirt Candy will be like.

All in all, as I am trying to think through my next career move at this critical moment, this bit of what Amanda Cohen said particularly struck a cord.

Question: If you had one thing that you could do over, what would it be?

Amanda Cohen: I definitely would have tried to have more varied work experiences.  I loved all the jobs I had, but my time as an apprentice in the kitchen is not going to happen again. So I wish I had taken the time to work in a pizza restaurant, or an Asian restaurant. Even though I could still do it, it’s not the same.

You can read the full interview here. Looking forward to my time of unemployment. 

From NY Times Review